Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder

By Max Sherman | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

REMARKS OF BILL MOYERS AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR BARBARA JORDAN, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, JANUARY 28, 1996

When Max Sherman called to tell me that Barbara was dying and wanted me to speak at this service, I had been reading a story in that morning's New York Times about the discovery of forty billion new galaxies deep in the inner sanctum of the universe. Forty billion new galaxies to go with the ten billion we already knew about. As I put the phone down, I thought: it will take an infinite cosmic vista to accommodate a soul this great. The universe had been getting ready for her.

Now, at last, she has an amplifying system equal to that voice. As we gather in her memory, I can imagine the cadences of her eloquence echoing at the speed of light past orbiting planets and pulsars, past black holes and white dwarfs and hundreds of millions of sun-like stars, until the whole cosmic spectrum stretching out to the far fringes of space towards the very origins of time resonates to her presence.

The day after she died, the headline in the Houston Chronicle said: “A voice for justice dies.” And I thought: Not so. The body dies: “dust to dust and ashes to ashes.” But the voice that speaks for justice joins the music of the spheres. What does the universe even know of justice unless informed by a Barbara Jordan? Cock your ear toward the mysterious and invisible matter that shapes the galaxies and sustains their coherence, and you will hear nothing of justice. On matters of meaning and morality, the universe is dumbstruck, the planets silent. Our notions of right

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